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Authors: Joseph Bruchac

Dragon Castle

BOOK: Dragon Castle
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Table of Contents
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by The Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) • Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa • Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Copyright © 2011 by Joseph Brucac All rights reserved
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Bruchac, Joseph, date.
Dragon castle / by Joseph Bruchac.
p. cm.
Summary: Young prince Rashko, aided by wise old Georgi, must channel the power of his ancestor Pavol the great, and harness a magical dragon to face the evil Baron Temny after the foolish king and queen go missing.
eISBN : 978-1-101-51603-4
[1. Princes—Fiction. 2. Wisdom—Fiction. 3. Kings, queens, rulers, etc.—Fiction.
4. Dragons—Fiction. 5. Fairy tales.] I. Title.
PZ7.B82816Dr 2011

The Wall Hanging
A MONUMENTAL TAPESTRY decorates the wide back wall of the Great Hall in Hladka Hvorka, my family's large old castle. The tapestry has been there since the castle's earliest days. No one knows who wove it. Perhaps, some say in jest, it wove itself. That idea may not be so far-fetched if one believes the legend that Hladka Hvorka was constructed—or grew up out of our high round hill—in but a single night.
The sequence of scenes depicted upon that wide weaving isn't easy to describe, even for me. It's not just because of the bright intricacy of its texture, the way sparkling threads of silver and crimson, russet and gold, cerulean and jet, azure and amber seem to not merely reflect light but glow as if lit by fires from within. Nor is it merely due to its sheer size, double the height of a tall man and encompassing a surface the length of a strong spear cast.
It is, to be frank, frustrating to try to describe the imagery held by the Hladka Hvorka tapestry because the shapes within its weave seem to change as I study them. Just when I think I'm perusing a pair of juggling lads, I realize I'm looking instead at two lissome maids, who gaze back at me with dismissive eyes!
And therein lies the more disturbing aspect of our gigantic tapestry—at times it seems more aware of me than I am of it.
Nie! Do not look at me
, it soundlessly commands, and I find myself unwillingly averting my gaze.
By the head of the dragon! Quite unsettling.
However, as I've looked at the tapestry often, I've discerned at least one or two recurring motifs.
First and foremost, of course, there's the epic journey and eventual triumph of our ancestor Pavol, dragon conqueror, scourge of evil, founder of Hladka Hvorka and the ensuing Reign of Peace we yet enjoy. We also may observe his noble steed, his friends and allies, and so on.
(Interestingly, the gold thread that outlines Pavol appears later in the tapestry, where a tall, youthful shape hesitates before a doorway. In similar fashion, the red thread associated with the deceptive dragon also resurfaces there.)
Secondly, of course, there's Pavol's adversary, the Dark Lord. The jet black silk that outlines him also seems to loom up and then subtly disappear throughout the wide weave—unpredictable as the late spring frosts that may wilt our crops just when we assume winter's cruel reign has ended. Quite disconcerting.
Whenever I look at the great tapestry it makes me wonder. I find myself wishing I understood more. So few real facts about our great ancestor's story have come down to us today.
Perhaps I'll never know.
mother said.
His father's last word to him.
He had always done as they asked. And though the grim look on Otec's face and the tears in Matka's eyes made him want nothing more than to remain with them, the slight, six-year-old child did as they commanded.
He allowed his father to lower him out the window until it was but the drop of a child's height. His small feet landed lightly on the packed earth. He ran swiftly across the back courtyard, where a small confused group of their servants huddled like chickens that have seen the fell shadow of a hawk.
Some of them nodded uncertainly to him. All of them were looking to the front wall, but none attempted to man it. After all, who among them knew enough to mount a defense—even if they had been armed? Suddenly they were all pushed aside by a round, aproned whirlwind that came rushing out through the kitchen door to intercept him. Maria, the cook. She grasped the boy's thin arm, hugged him fiercely to her huge bosom. Then she thrust a cloth in which several warm kolac were tied into his shirt before pushing him on his way.
Old Strom, the carpenter, stood with his broad back braced against the postern wall. He said nothing, merely nodded at his hands held together in front of him. One step into those cupped palms, a quick boost, and the boy was atop the parapet that had never been raised so high as to withstand an attack. It was more of an aesthetic feature than a defense. After all, castles are expected to have ramparts, even one such as theirs—St'astie Dom, the House of Happiness, where the gates were left open day and night to admit tradespeople, wandering musicians, and any ordinary folk in need of the help his big-hearted parents would always provide.
What use had they for defenses? Who would attack them? They were the kindest of rulers, generous and undemanding of the common people, friends to all. That was why, it was said, that the Silver Realm, the place of the Fair Folk that can never be found on any map, lay so close to their tiny kingdom. Though the Faerie people never directly interfere in the doings of mortals, the fact that the aura of their glittering realm could be seen from St'astie Dom implied that they looked with favor upon that little land of kindness and peace. The Fair Folk were pleased to be bordered by such guileless, gentle humans.
So, too, had been the other larger dukedoms and principalities around them. Until recently, courteous visits from their various royal neighbors had been commonplace. But it had been two seasons since any visitors from other kingdoms had graced their home.
All that had come were dire rumors, which the boy's parents had not spoken about to him. However, his ears had been keen enough to pick up their whispered conversations about the calamity such stories said had come to the lands around them. A dark warlord, one whose only desire was to crush and conquer, slaughter their leaders, and then rule those lands with a fist of iron. It did not matter how small or poor any principality might be. The very fact that it was there was enough to draw the attention of that evil one. It was so terrible a story that surely it could not be true.
Only a story, not reality. That was what they had hoped, if not believed—until this day. Then, was it only a hour ago? Krajat, the woodcutter, had stumbled through the open gate. Terribly wounded, he told with his last breath of the grim army that approached, led by that same monstrous conqueror they had hoped was mere fantasy.
The boy and his parents had looked then to the north. And there they saw the black storm cloud sweeping down off the mountain, that same thunderhead said to ride above the dark warlord's army.
The boy dropped from the parapet to the soft earth below. As he rose from the ground, he risked a quick glance to either side. No sign back here of the besiegers. And why should there be? The front gate was wide open, as always. Closing it would have been impossible without breaking the rusted hinges or wrenching the metal free from its pins. He pushed away the thought of his mother and father sitting as he knew they would be, side by side in the simple chairs that served as their thrones. They would be holding hands as they waited.
I should be with them,
he thought. But he had to do as they had told him to do. His mother's words had been urgent, his father's command simple and direct. No time to pause and think. Run! Hide! He wiped his eyes and ran. Within thirty strides he was in the embrace of the welcoming woods.
Don't Worry
“DON'T WORRY.” My brother, Paulek, smiles at me and goes back to sharpening his sword. “Remember what Father says. Worries never dug a ditch.”
Hah! Easy for him to say. He's never used a shovel in his entire life. All he ever worries about is finding time to practice his swordsmanship, riding his horse, and looking like the proper heir to our little kingdom. As if looks could take the place of rational thought! Why, I sometimes wonder, am I the only one in our family who ever seems to entertain a thought as anything other than a transient visitor? Why is it that when our lord and creator Boh was handing out brains, my parents and my brother apparently got in line behind the hummingbirds? If it were not for my taking charge, nothing would ever get properly done around here.
By the head of the dragon! How would they ever get along without me?
And where are my parents?
“Brother,” Paulek says, responding to the question I didn't realize I just asked out loud. His voice is as calm as only that of one who never fits more than one idea in his head at a time can be. “You know that Father and Mother can take care of themselves.”
Hah! again. Has he never seen our good father standing out in the rain and looking up in wonder? Just standing there until I came running out with a cloak for him to put over his head? And what did Father say in reply to me when I observed that he was getting soaked to the skin?
“Lovely storm, isn't it?”
Has my brother never noticed that our dear mother is so innocent that she never has a cross word for anyone, even when they burn the porridge or forget yet again to repair the broken glass in the chapel window? She doesn't even seem to realize that there are actually things in this world that can do injury! Just last month I had to pull her away from stroking a bee as it rested on a sunflower. And what was her remark to me?
BOOK: Dragon Castle
9.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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